Every day I’m having conversations with people about what’s happening in their world, in their business, in their families. Maybe you are as well?
Our experiences are all different and yet at the same time somehow similar.
2020 is NOT what we expected.
Things just haven’t gone the way we thought they would this year.
Pretty much everyone has been affected and some people to a greater or lesser degree
I’m not sure how it has been for you?
As we listen to what’s happening for and with others – are we empathetic or are we sympathetic? And does it matter?
I believe it does matter now in 2020.
I have long struggled to truly understand the difference between empathy and sympathy and I am going to admit, I truly do not understand why one is said to be “bad” and the other is said to be “good.”
As someone who is immensely practical and pragmatic I’ve often wondered if I am more sympathetic than empathetic.
“Sympathy always kicks in with strangers: empathy might or might not”
I saw this recently in a terrific article in SMH and The Age in which the writer Miriam Cosic distinguishes between sympathy and empathy with 2 examples that resonated strongly with me. You can read the article here.
The first example is an occasion when her dad stops to help an old man hanging over a tram stop barrier because “he needs our help”.
The second is a wonderful story about an Irish taxi driver in Sydney who “cared but kept his emotional distance” when he picks her up to drive her to hospital for cancer treatment. You can read the article here.
Why does it matter what’s the difference between sympathy and empathy, now and here in 2020? A key question to consider is: How do we want to be?
It’s time to recognize that both empathy and sympathy are helpful. One is not “better” than the other. One is not “good” and the other is not “bad”
I’m a helper, in fact I like to refer to myself as a “super helper.” Some people say I’m a “bit like everyone’s big sister” and that sits well with me
Reading this article and going back to the origins in Adam Smith’s 18th-century philosophy helps me see that – like so many things – there are more similarities than there are differences in the 2 concepts.
It doesn’t matter what we call it, now more than ever it is important to:
- treat each other fairly,
- reduce harmful judgement and
- help others where we can.
This is how I’m living every day as best I can?
How does this sound to you?